Observations from a Pair of Moving Legs

Around the change of millennium old mate Bob and I used to run early mornings along the Glenelg South esplanade. There’s surprising stuff happening along the beach at dawn.




It is like facing up to an appointment with the dentist. You know that it is likely going to hurt, that you will make some alarming gurgling sounds and that when it is finished, you will try, with ample humiliation, to spit.


Friday. Dawn. Moseley Square. I twist and fold in a feeble attempt to prepare. Peering into the dark space of the Grand’s Pier and Pines bar, I see a lone cleaner vacuuming away the last scraps of yesterday’s conversation. “Let’s do this,” urges Bob- my accomplice.


With a beep my stopwatch is blinking and running and so are we.


At 6am the Esplanade is two babbling streams of people and dogs: one flowing toward Brighton and the other; lazily at the Patawalonga. We surge southward and a hound lumbers into my lane and then across to a yawning pine. He autographs it with the shamelessness of a footballer on an end-of-season trip.


On the horizon a tanker drags itself noiselessly toward the refinery. The breeze is crisp. A lanky teenager shuffles plastic tables outside the Broadway café, his black beanie pulled so low that some could suspect him of arranging a mid-morning bank robbery. I spot a Chupa-chup poking jauntily from his jaw and relax, pleased that he is unlikely to feature on tonight’s TV news. He nods, “G’day boys.” We nod back.


Knots of chatty walkers drink up the seaside zest and provide welcome entertainment. It’s like spinning a radio dial across endless talkback stations- and not without intrigue. A Reality-TV producer (still in plague numbers) could fashion a dozen episodes from the random snippets we steal each morning. Ambling into Somerton Park I catch:


“…but you’ll never guess,” (an elderly gent to his grandson) “he made the putt!”


“I told Doreen that there-is-NO-WAY-I’m-going.”


“So, do you think his wife knows?”


And a boisterous woman in a pink tracksuit gives her arteries some extra traffic by broadcasting, “and that bloody plumber still wanted to charge me!”


My stopwatch offers no quirky grabs, and only rudely demands acceleration. The yacht club sails toward us. Finally halfway, we anchor and embrace our minute’s rest. “A visit to the dentist’s is less painful,” I splutter, hands on hips- hungry for air.


Bob wheezes, “At least you get plenty of oxygen in the chair.” His hair is stuck firm to his head. We devour the sixty seconds, then turn, resolved, homeward bound. The wind, previously an ally, is now an aggressor. I immediately feel I’m towing an old wooden bar fridge.


The Esplanade’s skyline changes constantly. Majestic villas bravely protest the spread of Tuscan packing crates. A developer’s billboard stands loud among the concrete and the mesh of a building site. “Hurry! Only ONE left,” it screams.


“Now that’s optimism,” snorts Bob. This anorexic block is apparently destined to feature but two townhouses.


A cheery clot of ruddy sixty-somethings is caught by their chain of cars on a rise. T-shirts cling and drip and they chat brightly in the golden light of the sunrise as only the retired can. A champagne cork, sorry- Australian Sparkling Wine cork cuts an arc across the footpath like a failed firework. Each gent tips a crystal flute into which the hissing fizz is energetically spilled. “What’s the occasion boys?” I ask.


“Friday,” celebrates one of this chirpy clan as he hoists his breakfast drink. A gesture of sweaty fellowship.


“Amen,” I return.


“That will be us in thirty years Mickey,” puffs Bob.


“The cheapest champagne might be a hundred bucks a bottle by then.”


“Plus twenty five per cent GST.” But Bob is given to political alarm. Pushing on towards the Broadway, we abandon our role models to their refreshments and their broad, leisurely days.


The stopwatch sternly announces a scant two minutes stands between us and our best time of the summer. The Grand’s sandcastle shapes loom and I try to push myself quicker. My legs scream. I know that root canal treatment is better than this.


Our finishing line (in many senses of the phrase) swims into happy view. I glance at my now wholly despised watch. The Town Hall clock frowns down at us like a disappointed Senior Colts football coach. Again I spy the wandering hound, leaving his name on a sullen lamppost.


Swerving around some swaying walkers gobbles critical seconds.


“Eleven dollars for O-Rings! What’s the hell is an O-Ring?”


It’s the pink tracksuit, still expounding on the Secret Horrors of Dishwasher Repairs.


We make a desperate, final lunge- and are outside our target time. It was, however, another vigorous run and my pounding pulse is electric. We savour our slow cool down on the bumpy lawn that separates the Norfolk Island Pines from the sand. After, easing along the veranda of the Grand, Bob inquires, “See you in here for a beer tonight?”


“Magnificent idea,” I agree.


Yes, it is the weekend. The glorious escape. Promise and anticipation.


Our next dental appointment is not until Monday.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. would make a fabulous radio play. supremely done!

  2. Love it, Mickey. As a (briefly) former resident of the beach end of Hove and former jogger I am very familiar with that run. Used to frequently jog by a former coach of the Bays/Crows and a Cyril/Poppy loving footy commentator coming in the other direction, too.

  3. Nice one Mickey. Was sorry to see your Crows bow out of the finals. You lovely seaside run has to be more bearable than my East Coast Park equivalent (should I ever work up the courage to do one!).

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Yep Mickey, Adelaide’s beach side promenades are a treasure, even that bit between Largs and Sempahore. Hope no-one else finds out and spoils it for everyone.

  5. Onya Mick, Nice yarn. Hoping to get the the GF lunch next week to renew the conversation

  6. Peter- thanks for that. Ah, a radio play. Under Milkwood remains the supreme example of this-

    “It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobbled streets silent and the hunched courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.”

    Dave- I’ve seen the former coach roller-blading (of course) about the place with over-sized headphones on his bonce. Oddly enough I’ve spied the commentator in the TAB!

    Djlitsa- good to hear from you. In Singapore I ran a running club which at 3pm was not necessarily the best idea on the equator. I also ran along the river, but yes, Glenelg beach is generally more hospitable.

    Agreed Swish. I reckon Port Willunga is among the best beaches I’ve seen on the planet. Running south from Glenelg, the Port Stanvac refinery was always an unwelcome sight. Semaphore is now Adelaide’s premiere shopping/retail/village strip. The Bakehouse a treat.

    Tony- would love to be at the lunch, but will be in the Clare Valley tackling golf, grand final, assorted local products. Plan on attending a lunch next season with a similarly tidy crew to the one you met in May!

    Thanks everyone.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    You write exquisitely, although I disagree that running is as bad as a visit to the dentist. I suspect that you are running too hard, ease up.
    Having run in Singapore, I can only agree that Glenelg-Brighton area would be a piece of pxxx. On the bush tracks where I run in Melbourne’s outer burbs, I am almost as likely to see a wallaby or wombat as another human.

  8. Thanks Peter.

    While I once may have been a runner I’m now only, at best, a jogger.

    Running in Singapore was tough and it would often take me an hour to cool down. But, everything there made me hot, even drinking beer and watching footy.

    Your bush runs sound wonderful,

    Dave- forgot to mention than on my now infrequent runs I often pass a former ruckman by the name of Super.

  9. What part of these engaging human observations could not have been made while walking?

  10. PB- this sounds like the Old Bull counseling the Young Bull.

  11. Peter Fuller says

    If the walking involves tacking round 18 holes dragging a set of golf sticks, my experience suggests that it is a threat to personal equanimity. Running allows one to go further in a given allocation of time, so offers more potential experiences than walking. I will concede that walking has some advantages, compared with standing still.

  12. Great stuff,Mickey as always you took us all along for the ride so to speak ( hate the cliche line the johnrey )

  13. Thanks Rulebook. In my twenties I ran a few City/Bays and now that our eldest seems keen might try to get our there next year!

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Very enjoyable read Mickey. I’ve been running for the past 3 weeks in preparation for cricket season, can well relate to your dentist analogy.
    Could well be series made out of ‘Secret Horrors of Dishwasher Repairs”!

  15. Thanks Luke. Good luck for the upcoming season.

    From a spectator perspective I always find the gap between the footy grand finals and professional cricket a little uncomfortable, whereas in autumn these overlap largely due to the shameless predation of football, specifically the AFL. But it gives the neddies prominence too.

Leave a Comment